As I sit, suffering the aching consequences of a 13km battle fitness test I wasn’t fully prepared for, my mind turns to fitness and its relevance to divers. There are a lot of misconceptions and ideas about fitness as it pertains to diving, and this is a bit of an attempt to set some of it straight.
In my experience, the most important types of fitness to have as a diver, professional or recreational, are endurance and cardio. Endurance is critical, as currents, wave action, tides, surface swims or just the length of a dive can be taxing, and you need to be able to power though and still be able to get back to boat or shore. In addition to that, with good endurance, you’re less likely to become a “tired diver” rescue. Cardio can go hand in hand with endurance, but not always. Good cardio helps reduce muscle fatigue, and can also improve air consumption at depth.
A lot has been said about “fit” and “unfit” body types. Low body fat ≠ fitness. Having a healthy but not excessive amount of body fat is actually a benefit underwater, providing an extra layer of insulation against heat loss. That said, some studies have found that nitrogen can build up in fatty tissues, potentially leading to increased chances of DCI. Unfortunately, like so many areas of dive medicine, this is a badly researched area so all I can say is: “Stay fit, dress for the conditions”.
So… now what? What do I do to get fit? There are a plethora of websites, all offering fitness programs and so on, so I’m not going to list them off. What I will say is this: get a pool pass and start doing laps on a regular basis. You’ll exercise all the same muscles you’ll use diving, plus you’ll build up some good cardio. Also, there’s usually a hot tub to relax in after! Happy Holidays!